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Cost of Living Estimates

by Tod Massa 19. January 2018 20:39

 We are at the end of the first week of the legislative session and there are a lot of bills in play. Some of these will affect data collections. I'm not going to say too much about them since I believe a number of these will probably be rolled into one bill about dual enrollment and transfer. The list of bills we are tracking is on the SCHEV website

 A couple of tweets from last week.


I've written about this topic before, and decided to revisit it as an initial exercise for our Virginia Management Fellow, Tyler Williams, a recent University of Virginia graduate. In order to bring some sense of standardization to the discussion, it made sense to use the data from the Living Wage Calculator (http://livingwage.mit.edu/) as it provides estimates for housing, food, transportation, and other associated costs of living by locality, metropolitan statistical area, and the state. We used the housing cost and three-quarters of the food cost for the locality in which the the institution is located for 1 Adult, and then compared that to the 2016-17 Room and Board figures submitted to IPEDS by each institution for students living off-campus, not with family. In developing state financial aid policy and reporting, it helps to try and understand what it actually costs for independent students, or dependent students that live away from their family, to live off-campus. There may be cost savings in housing from sharing with multiple individuals, but the size of those savings seem to vary greatly, and the Living Wage Estimates also include options for the increased cost of multiple individuals sharing housing, so we chose the single adult option.


What we found was that, on average, of the cost of living estimate was about $1,400 higher than the estimate used in the Cost of Attendance and published and submitted to IPEDS. This was an average of discrepancy of about 19 percent.  In the worst cases, the IPEDS number was $4,800 above the cost of living estimate, but in that particular case, it does not strike me as unreasonable. Generally, I would rather see students provided with higher estimates in their COA since current research shows that often only small amounts of money at the wrong time get in the way of a student's success. At the other end, the IPEDS numbers fell short of the cost of living estimate by $7,300 and this difference seems problematic. Take a look at the data below. 


Categories: Student Success

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